Monday, May 30, 2011

wish granted

Not a big wish, but still - remember a few months ago when I responded to the Open Adoption Roundtable about open adoption and television with a wish that more scripted shows would deal with open adoption? At risk of revealing just how much television I really watch, let me just say that no less than three of my favorite shows ended their seasons by setting up adoption storylines for next fall. They won't all be open adoption storylines. Maybe none of them will. But I've never seen so many scripted adoption storylines pop up at once in my entire tv watching career. So, here they are with my wishes for them.

Parenthood: Parenthood is one of the best shows I've ever seen for dealing with family drama without getting over the top dramatic about things. Basically it's the story of one extended family, the Bravermans, and is centered on the four adult Braverman kids. Two of them are married, one is a single mom who lives with the Braverman parents/grandparents, and one is in a complicated relationship. One of the two married couples has been dealing with secondary infertility all this last season and decided to adopt. The writers for this show have done a great job of portraying a child with Asperger's in one of the other Braverman families, so I have some hope for a realistic portrayal of the adoption process here. This is the best shot we've got for seeing a scripted show really wrestle with open adoption - Julia wants an infant, and it feels like open adoption is the best way to portray that process.

Grey's Anatomy: Yes, I still watch Grey's Anatomy. This is an international adoption storyline that is already bending reality considerably and it's hardly gotten started. Basically a couple of just-married surgeons have been allowed to take placement of a baby girl from Africa who was originally brought to the states for surgery. From her orphanage. (Which happens all the time, right??) They did get interviewed by a social worker, but there has been no mention of the fact that the house they are building is completely unfinished and the house they live in now is occupied by a revolving door of other adults. In real life all those adults would have had to be interviewed, have background checks, etc. Not to mention the child's country having some sort of say - Derek and Meredith haven't had to travel at all. So no reality there. But this is basically a well written soap opera, so I'm looking less for reality and more for an emotional exploration of some of the adoption issues. This baby will be more bonded to Dad than Mom, maybe. And I really hope that she just doesn't continue to have perfectly and appropriately styled African hair with no mention of who is doing the cornrows. (and how in the world does anyone get cornrows on a child that is obviously less than a year old??? Do they drug her?? I don't understand.)

Modern Family: So, the gay couple in this show already somehow managed to adopt a little girl from Vietnam (despite gay couples never being qualified to adopt from that country and all adoptions having been shut down from Vietnam for quite a while now.) In the season finale they decided to adopt again "maybe a boy this time." I'm interested to see how the show does this and if they spend any time at all on the pre-adoptive part of things. But I have no hope for a realistic portrayal. Of anything. Because it's Modern Family. My biggest wish is just that I can laugh and not wince while watching it.

Any of you watching these shows? Thoughts??

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

doing fine

Looking back at the last two posts, I fear I may come across as slightly more traumatized than I actually am about the shots fired and whatnot. I wanted to write about the incident the way it felt when it happened - and there were big feelings - but I noticed that the big feelings faded fairly quickly. We are doing just fine.

A couple thoughts still linger with me, tensions that have always been a part of my life in this neighborhood but thrown into greater relief after this experience.

1. Teenagers are scary kids. I have always understood that teenagers are people that most adults find a little frightening, especially when they are in groups. I've never wanted to feel that way about a group of people, and I think I have mostly focused on the kid part - they're just kids. Which is true. However, kids do dumb things (like, oh, say shooting a gun at public park at 4 in the afternoon) when given the chance. Which can be pretty scary. One of my neighbors and I were discussing this and she told me that she thinks of teenagers as being like someone who has never driven a car being given a Ferrari. "Great equipment, no idea how to use it." She said. It's the decision making skills that are scary - and around here there is more than one teenager whose life gives him(or her) no power outside of guns and violence, and no tempering parental presence to help bridge the gap between ability to act and the ability to decide. So. Maybe it's okay to temper my compassion with a little bit of wariness when it comes to the teens.

2. I still love my neighborhood, but it's complicated. (and that's okay) I am used to loving things completely and unreservedly. One of the reasons I love my neighborhood is that it makes me think. There are lots of reasons - racial and economic diversity, lots of parks, my neighbors, proximity to downtown and my work and Andrew's work, etc. It gets in the 90th percentile for walkability scores. And it makes me think. Which is related mostly to the racial diversity part. For the past seven years I have been working on and questioning my internal danger response to certain situations - a group of black teenage boys being loud, hanging out for example. If I feel uncomfortable I question that response and attempt to get curious about it. There aren't clear lines, of course. And this experience reminded me that sometimes it's okay to see danger. Sometimes it's real. So I am thinking on that, working on it.

We have talked about going to our park again, but haven't actually done it yet. We will eventually. The weather is gradually, slowly, sometimes imperceptibly getting better and we have had some great sunny days. I have two more papers to write before the end of the quarter and three more Sundays at St. Paul's before I am done working there. Things are changing, but the sun is coming out. And we're doing fine.

at the park, photo by Jenny Jimenez

Thursday, May 12, 2011

what happened next

The phone rang about 5:30pm, just a little over an hour after the shots were fired. My phone said "unknown" but I answered anyway.

"This is Detective ___" the voice on the other end said. "I'm wondering if I could come get you and drive you a couple of blocks over to look a car and some suspects."

"Of course." I answered without really thinking about what he'd said.

As we had processed the shooting, first with our neighbor S and then with various police officers Andrew and I remembered more about what had happened just before the gun appeared. There was a car, a young woman yelling from the passenger side at the group of boys, one of whom shot the gun. There were common colors worn by shooter and his friends, colors that folks around here associate with violence. I ended up talking to a gang unit detective who seemed to have some idea whose car had been shot at.

I slid into the passenger side of the black unmarked car and shut the door. We drove just around the corner and stopped in the middle of the street. Two police cars had pulled over a white sedan and a rotund black youth was sitting on the curb behind the car, between it and a patrol vehicle. It was at a bus stop, near the pool. What I wasn't prepared for were the onlookers - twenty to thirty teenagers crowded the tiered walkway that rose above the street on the outside of the pool building, watching the spectacle. And now watching me.

"Do you think this is the car you saw?" I looked at it. It was the right color, windows tinted. It looked a little more beat-up than I remembered, but I had only seen it in passing, not paying attention to the details.

"It could be." I said. "I can't say for sure that it is, but it absolutely could be." He radioed to his colleagues and they made the boy who had been sitting down stand up. He was bigger than any of the kids I had seen running away from the park. He stared down the street. "I didn't see the driver of the car," I told the detective. "Just the girl who was hanging out the window." I told him that this kid was the wrong shape - too big to be one of the boys in the shooter's group.

"Unfortunately the female is the only occupant of the car we don't have," he told me. "She was with them, but we don't have her in custody now." He didn't' explain further, but radioed the officers on the street again. "Next one please."

They had the bigger boy sit back down, and got another young man out of the patrol car. He was tall, also African-American, wearing black shorts and a red t-shirt. Unlike the other kid he seemed serious and focused. And he looked directly at me. I had never seen him before.

"I have never seen this kid." I said, wondering if the detective was disappointed. "Again, I didn't see anyone in the car."

As he drove me back I tried to identify what I was feeling. "It's so weird to me," I said aloud. "They're just kids." Watching the white officers with these young black men had provoked an odd mix of protectiveness, concern, and fear in me. The police in our city don't have the best record for treating well with minority youth.

"Well," the detective took a breath and continued. "I have seen plenty of these kids kill people. And because they're kids they don't get put away. A couple of months and they're back on the street."

Wow, I thought. This is not a world I am familiar with.
The car pulled back around, and stopped in front of our building. Andrew was blowing bubbles and J was chasing them. I got out of the car, went up the steps to my family and we went inside.

First part of this story is here. Now that I've got the events written down I'll be doing some more reflective posts about the experience.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

shots fired

We were at the park, our park. We can see it from our front patio. The day was sunny and so the neighborhood was out and about. J was one of probably ten or fifteen little ones under ten running, walking, and toddling about. It was afternoon, around four pm, and the high school was out so there were teenagers at the community center, the pool, and in the parking lot that serves both places as well as the park. Where we were, all three of us. The day felt warm, boisterous, and loud. Andrew and J were making their way up to the top of the slide, and I had moved around behind them, still on the ground. I'm a little intense about spotting J when she climbs on playground equipment. So I was facing the parking lot and saw the gun in the split second before he started firing. It was a shiny metal handgun, and sparks flew from the end of it. He was young, skinny, one of several African-American teenage boys standing in a group. He stood in profile to me, and shot five or six times. I wasn't immediately aware of where he was shooting. Time stopped. Andrew grabbed J, jumped down. I yelled at him to grab J and jump down. Around us other mothers were doing the same thing, pulling their kids behind the slide. One white mom stood tall, looking confused. Tires squealed. The shooter and his companions ran toward us, past us, and away towards the pool. I looked up at the confused woman and she looked at me. "Was that real?" she asked. I found I couldn't speak so I just nodded, mind racing. She picked up her child and ran toward the parking lot. Around us mini-van doors slammed as the park emptied. Andrew and I stood up, slowly. I must have clutched J too tightly, she protested and began to cry. Lots of kids were crying, not from fear but disappointment. They didn't want to leave the park.

"Is anyone shot?" I asked, not exactly sure who I was talking to. Andrew had already started to walk toward the street, toward home. He had his phone and was calling 911. There were no bodies in the parking lot which was now fast emptying of cars. By the time we reached our front door the park was swarming with patrol cars. Andrew stayed outside, still on the phone. My shaking hands could barely unlock the door. I went upstairs to a neighbor's house, handed her my child and collapsed on her bed.

This happened one week ago. I am processing it, slowly, and hope to unpack the experience partly through writing about it here. Expect to see more soon.

Monday, May 9, 2011

mother's day after

Mother's Day is weird, you guys. It just is. It was started as a proclamation by a pacifist, feminist mother who wanted to claim her role as a mother as a valid place from which to stage political action and demand political change.

Now it's a Hallmark holiday - an opportunity seized upon by those looking to make money, and a day where the balloons, flowers, gifts and what-not doubtless do make some mothers feel great, but leave others in the cold. I am thinking of those who have lost children, who are still waiting for children, who do not have the relationships with or experiences of their own mothers that they wish they did, or whose mothers are lost to them.

So it's weird. I have mixed feelings about it and while I love celebrating my own mother, step-mother, and mother-in-law (because they are awesome and worth celebrating any day of the week) I don't really feel great about a "traditional" mother's day for myself. And of course I think about Z and have mixed feelings there too.

So, instead of doing that (whatever that might have been) I had a great Sunday at a church that doesn't make a big deal out of Mother's Day (for reasons I mentioned above) and a good afternoon with the special person I get to be a mommy to, and an evening overflowing with friends and neighbors and good food and laughter, followed by a couple episodes of futurama watched from my favorite spot cuddled next to the special person I get to be married to. All in all I'm ridiculously lucky, because it wasn't a special day at all - just a regular Sunday around these parts.

So I may not be able to fully get behind Mother's Day. But I can get behind the proclamation that according to some started it all. So here it is. By Julia Ward Howe:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I am here, treading water in blogland while I wriggle through a much busier spring than I had prepared myself for. This is, I have realized, part of my annual pattern. I fool myself into thinking that spring will be relaxed and sunny, in total denial of who I am and where I live, and then I'm caught off guard by the reality. Meanwhile things are happening in my world and elsewhere that would make excellent blogging material!

Today, however, I'll settle for a preview of what I'm hoping for from the rest of my spring, and you'll get some idea of what to expect from me in this space:

  • cleansing: after the experience of doing housework as my Lenten discipline ended on Easter things went...downhill. I am dedicating the month of May to Clean. This means our home, and also my body as I experiment with this program.

  • transition: this is Andrew's last quarter of school and we're both on pins and needles to see what happens for him as he starts to hunt for permanent full time employment. Meanwhile I'm going through a rather complex cacophany of emotions as I get ready to leave my job at St. Paul's permanently, and leave the parish for the next year to complete an internship elsewhere.

  • tax money: any other adoptive parents out there getting the runaround from the IRS? (that was rhetorical - I know you are.) We, like many, have been relegated to "review" status. Despite submitting all requested paperwork, of course. No requests for further info from them at the moment, just a letter saying not to call for the next 45 days.

  • We have some exciting plans for our refund, but I'll tell you about them when it actually comes through.

  • Daycare starts in the fall! In anticipation of Andrew working full time and having a variable schedule we started a daycare search this past winter. We've settled on one and secured J a spot for two days a week in the fall. It's a great little in-home place two blocks away from home, which seems perfect. If we can just get her to stop biting, this should work out great.

Okay, that's all I got. Any questions?